‘Hugely arrogant’: Channel 9 clashes over Margaret Court
Things turned spicy on Channel 9 this morning during a heated debate about Australian tennis legend Margaret Court.
The panel on Sports Sunday was discussing how Tennis Australia (TA) handled its announcement yesterday it had invited Court to attend the Australian Open as a special guest to mark the 50-year anniversary of her incredible 1970 Grand Slam, when she won all four majors.
In the same statement yesterday, TA also delivered Court a stinging backhand by saying it does not agree with her views that gay marriage should not be legal, which have "hurt and demeaned many in our community".
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TA then went a step further, publishing an open letter saying "publicly stated views of intolerance and demeaning language" have no place in the sport.
Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge praised Tennis Australia's handling of the situation, as did Sydney Morning Herald rugby writer Georgina Robinson, before she took exception with the attitude of former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons.
FitzSimons, a noted critic of opponents to gay marriage, like Court and Israel Folau, asked Woodbridge whether he'd ever tried to talk to Court and tell her she was wrong, which Robinson said was a "hugely arrogant" position to take.
CHECK OUT THE DISAGREEMENT IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
FitzSimons: "Todd, you're a leading member of the Australian tennis community. She is a leading member of the Australian tennis community. Have you ever tried to sit down, beyond the press releases and say, 'Margaret, please, on this stuff, you're just so out of kilter, you're wrong'. Have you ever tried personally talking to her?"
Woodbridge: "I spoke to Margaret at the Fed Cup, but not about what you're talking about.
FitzSimons: "Why didn't you try? Isn't it your duty to try?"
Robinson: "That would be hugely arrogant."
Robinson: "Because it's her religious belief."
FitzSimons: "It's homophobic gibberish."
Robinson: "For sure it might be, but it's her religious belief."
FitzSimons: "I have religious friends and I talk to my religious friends and say, 'This is nonsense, you must know this is nonsense'."
Robinson: "If you come at it with, 'You're wrong', I think you probably don't get very far.
FitzSimons: "If you say that gays are going to hell, you are wrong, you are wrong."
Robinson: "What about, 'Explain to me your position'? Perhaps Todd starts with that."
Woodbridge responded by saying he doesn't believe Court would listen to him if he attempted to change her opinion, saying other people have tried without success to talk the 77-year-old around.
Woodbridge also said he's pleased TA's response has taken away tennis as a platform Court can use to sprout her anti-gay marriage sentiments.
FitzSimons then doubled down on his original point, asking Robinson why he can't tell religious people against gay marriage they are "wrong".
FitzSimons: "Mr Speaker, just a point of order. When you say - a serious point - when you say I can't say to religious people, 'You're wrong', religious people proselytise to me all the time, trying to make me believe …"
Robinson: "My position is not that you can't say, 'You're wrong', my position is that you won't get very far talking to people and understanding them by that being your opening salvo - 'You're wrong, please shut up'.
FitzSimons: "But do you say to religious people that proselytise to the likes of me, which they do all the time to atheists - what Folau does is, 'All you nonbelievers are going to go to hell'. Do you say that to him? Why do you say it to me? We're all adults, we're having a discussion."
Robinson: "No I'm saying if you want to get to a point where you do understand Margaret Court or you do want to bring her back into the fold, I am sure Tennis Australia did not go into her house and say, 'You're wrong, please shut up'."
Court's family released an open letter of its own in response to Tennis Australia's extraordinary public swipe at the controversial icon in which her four children Daniel, Marika, Teresa and Lisa expressed their disappointment with TA's public denigration.
"How blessed we are to have the greatest Mum, Margaret Court," the open letter read.
"Mum is known worldwide for her tennis achievements for 64 grand slams, greater than any man or woman. She heads a Church of thousands and helps many with food handouts daily.
"Mum is in continual demand to help and counsel others and is always ready to help people in need. She is a mother of 4 children and grandmother to 9 grandchildren - who are all her number 1 fans. Mum and Dad have been married for 53 years and are proud of us all and we are certainly proud of them.
"Mum's Tennis achievements pale in light of her current life as a mother, wife, Pastor and mentor to many. As mum is a minister of religion it is her job to stand for Biblical principles. Mum has always been very Bible based in her Christian beliefs and that is the reason why we have such a strong loving family.
"It is hard for her family to understand how her current lifestyle would possibly affect her Tennis Career in any way. It is disappointing to see Tennis Australia in the Open Letter amalgamating her sporting career which she won for her Nation. We hope in this great Nation of ours that generations to come will continue to have freedom of speech to stand for what they believe in.
"We are thrilled that Tennis Australia will be celebrating mum's achievements and look forward to the great tennis at the Australian Open 2020. Thanks Mum, for all you do for us and our families."